43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

In praise of the junk folder

I often end up using my Desktop as a parking lot for current files. Not exactly an inbox, but given how easy it is to hit CMD-D in a dialog box, it’s where a lot of tmp files, exported jpgs, and assorted stuff naturally ends up. Still, I find it distratcting when too much stuff accumulates there, so I also keep a “Junk” folder on the desktop.

“Junk,” my mounted drives, and my downloads folder are all I want to see permanently on the Desktop, so I label those items a certain color. When things start feeling a bit crufty, I open a new list-format Finder window showing the desktop, sort by color, and grab anything that’s not my permanent label color.

I drag that all into the “Junk” directory, which I’ve set to do an automagic PsyncX backup to an external drive every night. That way, I can prune the local junk folder without ever worrying I’m throwing out something important.

It’s more of a mental crutch than a really useful hack, but I find it an efficient way to deal with stuff I don’t want to devote much thought to. And, at least once a month, I do end up wanting something that I thought was “junk,” in which case I always know exactly where to look.

[BTW: this is a classic TMTOWTDI: there are a bunch of OSX apps and Applescripts that can help you do this automatically. I just prefer this more hands-on way. Feel free to nominate your own cleanup tips in comments, of course.]

SYFer's picture

I'm with you. I...

I'm with you. I sometimes give "Intro to Mac OS" sessions in the course of my teaching digital filmmaking at SFSU and I try to instill the habit of using the desktop "as a desktop." It's where I make all my "messes," but I have a strict rule that clearing the desktop MUST be done at the end of each work session.

Kind of in the spirit of GTD, it forces me to action every loose end. When creative types are in the throes of creating, we make messes. I'm always piling up loads of files with names like "finaltest3.mov" and "test222.mov" and if you put them on the desktop then force yourself to rename, delete and otherwise "clear" them at the end of each and every session (by renaming and placing the "keepers" into the appropriate project folder--usually on an attached drive), you stay on top of things and avoid needless HD clutter.

My mantra: ALL current session activity on desktop--desktop clean EVERY time I leave the workstation. Isn't that really how a desktop is supposed to work?

OT: Kudos on an outstanding website, Merlin! I discovered it yesterday via boingboing because I just bought GTD and am hoping it will get my insanely harried life in order. I relate heavily to the "geek-appeal" factor (user SYFer on /.) and am excited about GTD. This site is already on my daily "must read" list. Good design, good writing and excellent content.




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